concepts

From Mentorship to Sponsorship—Putting Something at Stake in Diversity

From Mentorship to Sponsorship—Putting Something at Stake in Diversity

As a small company working with large technology firms, we've learned some difficult lessons about how to navigate the corporate world. As the white, male founder of a firm, but with 'hidden' diversity (all of our current employees qualify as at least one protected class, such as women, members of the LGBT community and/or disabled) I have seen a lot of conversations where people assumed I was one of the old boys' club, and had at least as many where I was definitely not in the 'club.' What I've learned is that mentorship is the second prize: sponsorship is what really matters. I first heard the term 'sponsorship' at the BlogHer Business, Entertainment and Technology conference a few years ago. In contrast to the (useful) mentorship and coaching models, which are mostly about advice in a private setting, sponsorship is the concept of lending or giving tangible and intangible resources to others to help them get a leg up—like reputation, connections, leads, money or access

Will You Be the Dinosaur or the Disruptor?: Shifting from Analog to Digital

Will You Be the Dinosaur or the Disruptor?: Shifting from Analog to Digital

In the transition from a tangible business with physical products to one which also has software products and services embedded in everything the business does, some big cultural changes need to happen, and some deeply-held worldviews and mindsets need to shift. 

Creating Cultures of Innovation— A Perspective from the Heart

Creating Cultures of Innovation— A Perspective from the Heart

Emotional intelligence is a real, and really important, factor at play in any business which employs and serves human beings. Leaders are learning how to leverage the impact that emotional intelligence—sometimes called “soft skills”—has in business, from individual careers to organizational culture. Articles on the subject are no longer relegated to fringe publications or social sciences, in fact mainstream business journals like ForbesHarvard Business Review, and FastCompany have been talking about it for several years. The thriving conscious capitalism movement, the emergence of B Corps , and sold-out conferences like Wisdom 2.0 are all further evidence that more and more professionals and companies are taking the human element of business very seriously. This means that not only is the industrial age model of treating people like machines an outdated one, but companies who aren’t engaged with their employees and customers on a human level are at a competitive disadvantage in an increasingly networked world.

Software as a Service (SaaS) and Platform as a Service (PaaS)

Software as a Service (SaaS) and Platform as a Service (PaaS)

Software used to be sold as any other product: a box on a shelf (or a download equivalent) and either basic post-purchase support or paid support contracts. Users would have to wait for a new release to get new features.

Feedback Loops, Empathy and the Importance of Outrospection

Feedback Loops, Empathy and the Importance of Outrospection

As the world shifts towards more-networked organizations, the creation of feedback loops is more important than ever. An organization's capacity for empathy determines whether or not its products and services will actually serve the people it is trying to earn money from, and its awareness of what motivates its competitors, regulators and even its own staff will determine its ability to form important strategic alliances, form public-private partnerships and retain its workforce. 

Teams of Lone Wolves

Teams of Lone Wolves

I first started conceiving of misfits and misfit teams when I began to reflect on my own employment process. As an unusual, "over"-sensitive and intelligent kid with no siblings, I often balked at oversimplified directions, experienced a bruised ego when receiving criticism, and struggled with how to participate in team or group environments. By the time I entered the workforce, I had developed a complex web of insecurities and related defenses designed to protect against the embarrassment of making public mistakes, compensating with my intelligence. It was in my first management position, which happened at about the same time I was engaging in lot of personal development work, that I really saw the impact. 

Healing the Wounds of the Assembly Line with Feedback Loops and Doctrine

Healing the Wounds of the Assembly Line with Feedback Loops and Doctrine

Often, the focus on the ideal of the cross-functional, interdisciplinary, extroverted worker results in questions being asked which the average employee is insufficiently skilled to answer. In her book Quiet, Susan Cain cites the example of one of her research technical interviewees' recollection of a 'murder board,' a panel of decision-makers whom engineers had to face in order to get their new ideas considered for funding and other resources. One can imagine a hard-faced panel of besuited men tearing down the brilliant if meek engineer with the smug expressions of a young MBA grad: "What's your marketing plan!," they might shout, "

Kits as an Innovation Enabler (and an Indicator Species)

Kits as an Innovation Enabler (and an Indicator Species)

The creation of a kit—literally, as in the Maker world, or figuratively, as in the software world’s APIs and application frameworks—serves as a magnet to whatever industry offers it. Make: magazine’s Project Editor, Keith Sammons, offers why: 

The Introversion-Extroversion Spectrum

The Introversion-Extroversion Spectrum

Introvert seems to be a nasty word these days. It's worth unpacking why, though, according to Susan Cain, author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. In the book, she point to an overemphasis on the extrovert rooted in the shift from a 'culture of character' to a 'cult of personality,' stemming from the need to find new ways to quickly and repeatedly introduce one's self—to sell  one's self—in the newly-urbanized United States in the early part of the 20th century. 

Autonomy and Acceptable Failures: The Need for Doctrine

Autonomy and Acceptable Failures: The Need for Doctrine

Autonomy, especially in and around U.S. businesses, is a tricky concept. Autonomy is valued very highly in our culture, but the challenge of finding a way to hand off acceptable amounts of control takes a lot more work than most leaders or employees realize. Few companies have the patience or budget for mistakes which occur when a more-autonomous goes wrong, so they choose not to grant autonomy in the first place, or revoke it at the first sign of trouble. Understandably, the constant conflict of employees who need autonomy and leaders who need accountability plagues most organizations. 

First Steps to Doctrine: the Example of Moore's Cloud Business Principles

First Steps to Doctrine: the Example of Moore's Cloud Business Principles

For an example of a fluid progression from values to high-level beginnings of doctrine, consider this published set of business principles from Moore's Cloud, a "smart light" startup based in Australia. Their founder, Mark Pesce, explained that the intent of these principles was both internal and external, being used both to inform internal daily decision-making and to filter (attract or repel) investors by explicitly stating the company's commitment to open ecosystems and transparent business practice. By 'downloading' individuals decision-making guides from key leaders in the organization and then 'uploading' them to the business's guiding source code, Moore's Cloud has reduced huge amounts of unnecessary

Doctrine: Downloading Wisdom for Agility and Effective Improvisation

Doctrine sits in between strategy and plans. It is more specific than the strategy, but also more versatile than plans, or rules. Think of it as heuristics, or guidelines: the purpose of doctrine is to enable an individual to know what to do in a situation that's consistent with the strategy and achieves the objectives of a plan, but with flexibility, with autonomy, for the individual, in the circumstance. And the creation of effective business doctrine, I believe is going to be critical for the transition of business in the next century.

The Shift from Push to Pull: Creating an Orbit

The Shift from Push to Pull: Creating an Orbit

One of the greatest shifts we're seeing today is a shift from push to pull. We're in a world now where our customers and our employees don't need us the way that they used to. It used to be that we needed to advertise, we needed to promote, we needed to push information out to people, so that they knew who we are, what we sell, why they should buy from us

It's Okay to Talk About Gender: Using Archetypes to Balance Your Team

It's Okay to Talk About Gender: Using Archetypes to Balance Your Team

Gender is a touchy subject. In the U.S., business peoples' historic inability to responsibly discuss gender resulted in a backlash which human resources department also reacted to—with an oversimplified, "we're all the same" message substituting for a deeper, more nuanced discussion of inclusion and equality. 

Caring: The Missing Ingredient

I think the biggest missing ingredient for leaders is caring. At some point along the line, they stop caring—about their teams, about the company, about their customers, and it becomes a matter of just executing actions. I think when leaders reconnect with why they're doing what they're doing, the difference that it makes in the world and allow themselves to open their mind and their heart and take action based on those, that's when things really start to happen. Because it becomes inviting to people. That's what becomes open and transparent.